When Cherry Lee was a graduate student at UT, she attempted to put her daughter Madi in UT’s Child Development Center (UTCDC). The waitlist spanned four years. Without alternative means of child care, Cherry’s husband took care of Madi while she attended night school on campus. However, this system wasn’t ideal, and without the proper University resources for child care, Cherry dropped out.
The Institute for Women’s Policy Research released a profile on college students with children in 2017 with the most recent data from 2012. It found that student parents make up 26 percent of the undergraduate body across the United States. The Southwestern region of the U.S. is home to 35 percent of student parents making it one of the highest and fastest growing demographics in university populations.
UT falls into the region with a high growth rate for student parents. The administration needs to plan an expansion of the child care resources they offer.
21 years later, Cherry’s daughter, Madi is a speech pathology senior at UT and the waitlist she was on as a baby is still lengthy. The UTCDC website says parents who put their child on the waitlist may wait one to three years until their child is accepted into the program.
According to Hara Cootes, the director for the Child Development Center, the waitlist is dependent on the child’s age. “If you had a 4-year-old, I have an opening today. If you had a 2-year-old, we might have an opening next fall.” Cootes said the sibling policy at the University gives newborn siblings of UTCDC children first priority when there is an opening. “Most of our infant spaces are taken by siblings,” Cootes said. “Families that don’t have sibling priority aren’t getting into the infant age group.”
Although the idea of the waitlist is fair, it is ineffective for many student parents like Cherry who didn’t have another means of childcare.
According to Cootes, the mission of the UTCDC is to support families so students can be successful on campus. When the center opened in 1991, there were only 86 children. Now the center hosts 480 children.
UT’s Child Development Center provides child care for both undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. According to Cootes, 70 to 100 children at the UTCDC are children of students. They take care of children who range from six weeks to 5-years-old at their Comal and San Jacinto locations. Their third location, Capitol Complex, is not open for students to take their children to. It is just for UT faculty, staff and state of Texas employees.
Cootes said she is aware of the need for infant and toddler care on campus — it is evident by looking at the UTCDC’s waitlist. But she also said adding more children to their current programs would not work. “If I could, I would open an independent infant and toddler center — we’d have to be heavily subsidized by the University in order to be financially viable to manage.”
It falls on the University to create another UTCDC location or develop established locations. This is worth the time and attention, as it would benefit a large student demographic — student parents. UT is part of the 42 percent of public institutions in Texas that offer campus child care — but there is still a need for more care as seen by the waiting lists that have not gotten smaller through the years.
It’s time for UT to think about expanding the UTCDC as fast as students are expanding their families.
Torres is a Plan II, English & creative writing junior from San Antonio.